We all do it. We don’t want to admit that we do it. I do it. And it’s a very bad habit to have.
Think back to the last time you met someone new. It may have been a first date, it might have been a casual mixer, or it might have been some sort of conference, interview or business function. You’re meeting this person for the first time and you get completely focused on making a positive first impression. Rather than actively listening to what this person is trying to say, you’re frantically formulating what you’re going to say next.
And then you miss her name. And then you feel awful about it. And you’ll feel bad if you ask her for her name again.
Get Out of Your Head
As you may already know, I was recently in Las Vegas for CES. I met up with many people I already knew, but I also met many marketing managers and product engineers for the first time. And, believe me, I tried my best to be an active listener, because I wanted to pick up on certain cues that I could use when I conducted my on-camera interviews. Human nature being what it is, that was quite the challenge, especially after doing this for several days in a row.
Pay Attention and Let Them Talk
Some of the interviews went better than others, of course. You can see my time with Arthur from LUXA2 in the image above. Despite paying as close attention to possible to what he had to say about their expanded mobile accessory line, I never really never felt the need to interject to “prove” that I was listening; I just let him do his thing.
Being a “good listener” doesn’t mean you should be completely mute nor does it mean that you should interject at every possible opportunity. What it means is to participate in what some psychologists may call “active listening.” Listening should not be a passive task; it is something with which you must actively engage. We could all improve on that.
A Learning Process
Steven Spielberg once said that “when you listen, you learn.” And when you’ve allocated all of your mental resources to thinking about your next response, you’re not listening anymore.